Simone Elkeles is the author of the widely popular and my personal favorite, Perfect Chemistry series. The third book in the series, Chain Reaction, was very recently published and is now in bookstores everywhere! I had the opportunity to interview this New York Times Bestselling author and she had some great things to say! Check it out!
Without giving away any big spoilers, what are some of the biggest differences from Chain Reaction as a book to Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction?
In Perfect Chemistry, Alex Fuentes is in the gang to protect his brothers. He sacrifices himself for his family and doesn’t think there is any way out. Brittany makes him realize that there is a way out, and life is worth living if he fights for it. In Rules of Attraction, Carlos tries to make himself numb by doing drugs/getting drunk/getting in trouble. Kiara challenges him to be the hero she knows he can be. She makes him realize he can trust people and not everyone is going to leave him.
My readers have gotten to know Luis in my other books and already know that Luis is a really sweet, smart guy who doesn’t carry the angst that his brothers carry. He’s been protected by his brothers his entire life. In Chain Reaction, he gets sucked into the gang life and learns a secret about his family that blows him away. Nikki is different than the girls in the other books. She has a big wall up and has major trust issues due to a tragic breakup a few years back. Both Nikki and Luis have to trust each other, which isn’t easy. Luis has to stay loyal to the gang, because it’s in his blood and he’s an adrenaline junkie…but Nikki and his family have other plans for him. The book is not only about love, but brotherhood and family – more than the other books in the series.
What are some big personality differences between the Fuentes brothers and specifically Luis to Alex and Carlos?
Alex is the head of the Fuentes family, and takes that job seriously. Carlos is the bad boy with a major attitude problem – he’s sarcastic and doesn’t mind playing the jerk role. Luis has always been the most ambitious Fuentes brother and has usually wanted to stay out of trouble. He as no desire to follow in the footsteps of his older brothers and wants to stay as far away from the gang life as possible. But he’s still got that Fuentes swagger and pride…and he’s also got a side of himself that he’s been hiding from his family. He’s an adrenaline junkie, and that part of him definitely gets him into trouble in Chain Reaction!
I read that there has been quite a response from actual gang members who have read your books and have wanted to better their lives. It must feel incredible to have that kind of impact! Are there any specific stories that really moved you?
There’s no way to describe how emotional it is for me when I get fan mail from at-risk teens! When I first wrote Perfect Chemistry, I had no idea it would impact so many people the way it has. Over a year ago, I had one teen contact me and tell me that Perfect Chemistry had inspired him to get out of his gang and live a better life. He also said he’d never read an entire book in his life (he was 18) before he read Perfect Chemistry. He completely identified with Alex, and he couldn’t put the book down. I was so moved, I actually went to visit him when I was doing research for Chain Reaction. I learned so much about his life and the kind of challenges he has to face every day. It’s heartbreaking. I might have inspired him, but he really inspired me!
You’re always able to write up some of the most romantic and heartwarming scenes as well as the most intense and nerve racking scenes for the characters! Where do you get your inspiration?
I fell in love with a boy when I was eighteen. We’re not talking about a normal relationship. I fell hard, deep, and fast to where the relationship became the center of my universe. It was super intense, and was the most romantic relationship I’d ever had by far. I hope to recreate the emotions I felt back then in my books. My inspiration for the romance in my books has always come from real life. When I’m writing about the gang life, I do research. I’ve gone riding with the detectives from the gang homicide division in Chicago, I’ve interviewed gang members, and talked to boys in juvie. I’m inspired by people I meet, and sometimes I get inspired by news articles or stories.
Out of all the Fuentes’ romances, which relationship do you like, want, and/or enjoy most? Alex and Brittany? Carlos and Kiara? Or the newly love ridden Fuentes boy, Luis, with his crush?
It’s so hard to decide! If I had to pick, I’d say Alex and Brittany in Perfect Chemistry as the relationship I’d want the most. Alex is a man who takes his responsibilities seriously, and will always be someone Brittany can rely on. He also has a dangerous side, which makes life exciting. Now if you would ask me which would be the most fun relationship, that would have to be Carlos and Kiara. Carlos is a guy who will always keep Kiara on her toes and life will never be boring with him. Carlos and Kiara banter so much, but the making-up part makes the bantering all worth it! Luis is the most romantic out of the three Fuentes brothers. I like romantic guys a lot, so in that department he beats his brothers hands-down. Nikki is a very lucky girl!
You graduated with a Bachelor’s in Science of Psychology and later earned a Master’s in a Science degree in Industrial Relations. Did you not want to be a writer when you were younger? What changed your mind and sparked your interest in writing for YA?
I most definitely did NOT want to be a writer as a teen. Actually, I hated reading. It wasn’t until I became an adult and was taking my kids to the library on a regular basis that I decided to give reading another try. That was when I fell in love with reading and after a while, I thought, “I can do that.” I started writing and everything began falling in place from there. I wanted to write books that I would have liked to read as a teen. When teens email me saying, “I hate to read, but I can’t put down your books!” it makes it all worth it.
Although Chain Reaction will end the Perfect Chemistry series perfectly, I’m still sad to see this series come together for the finale. I have yet to read Leaving Paradise but what are your future plans with writing for YA? Are you working on anything right now?
Coming from a completely biased perspective, but Leaving Paradise is awesome and you should read it today! I am definitely going to continue writing. My publisher and I have been working on a couple of new ideas. I dated a recovering alcoholic and drug addict when I was a teen, and the plan is to write a book about a girl who falls for a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. I can tell you that it will be edgy and romantic, like my other books!
What advice do you have for teen writers? And what advice do you have for teens like me who are just hoping to get an A in their English class?
Ha! I don’t know what advice I can give you in English class because I got C’s in English my freshman and sophomore years! I started doing better when I was an upperclassman, thank goodness. Things have changed since I was a teen, and I’m so happy that teachers allow independent reading so teens can read books they like. Just know that if you’re not getting all A’s in English you can still be a NY Times bestselling author like me. As far as writing, I would suggest that you join a writers’ group. I found so much support and learned so much from the group I joined. The last piece of advice? Don’t give up! Writing is hard, but if that’s your dream, go for it!
Isn't she awesome? Be sure to check out Chain Reaction because from the looks of it, it's going to be killer!